David Nutt, the former Government drugs tsar sacked after claiming that horse riding was as safe as taking ecstasy, has said that the banking crisis was caused by too many workers taking cocaine.
Prof Nutt said that too many bankers who took the drug were “overconfident” and so “took more risks” and said that not only did it lead to the current crisis in this country, but also the 1995 collapse of Barings bank.
He said cocaine was perfect for their "culture of excitement and drive and more and more and more", adding: “Bankers use cocaine and got us into this terrible mess. It is a 'more' drug."
Prof Nutt is not a stranger to making controversial claims about drugs. His latest attack is on the Government for “absurd” and “insane” laws dealing with magic mushrooms, ecstasy and cannabis, which he said were hindering medical research because regulations meant one of the ingredients - psilocybin, which is used to treat depression - was so hard to get hold of.
He was sacked as the Government’s most senior drugs advisor in 2009 after publishing a paper saying that there was "not much difference" between the harm caused by riding and ecstasy. Society, he argued, did not always "adequately balance" all of the risks inherent in it.
He was ordered to apologise by the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who accused him of trivialising the dangers of taking drugs. But he went on to claim that alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous than many illegal drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and cannabis, and was fired after later criticising the moral tone of the Government’s policy making.
In his latest broadside, Prof Nutt, 61, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said that magic mushrooms, which were banned in 2005, were done so by the Conservatives to “goad” Tony Blair, meaning he has to pay £6,000 for a licence, which was “bonkers”, or face buying it on the streets, which "my ethics committee wouldn't allow".
He said: "The reason we haven't started the study is because finding companies who could manufacture the drug and who are prepared to go through the regulatory hoops to get the licence, which can take up to a year and triple the price, is proving very difficult. The whole situation is bedevilled by this primitive, old-fashioned attitude that Schedule 1 drugs could never have therapeutic potential."
He told the Observer that being prevented on such grounds greatly hinders his research into evidence that psilocybin shuts down an area of the brain that is overactive in depression, therefore potentially blocking negative thought patterns.
Prof Nutt also accused the coalition of having "chickened out" of minimum pricing on alcohol, a move that has been proved in other countries to curb binge drinking. "Pathetic," he said. "I mean, the Lib Dems are sensible. They support these policies."